Fiber-y Fun!

Last week (October 21-27) was extraordinary in that I got to have so much fiber-y fun. (No, not Metamucil!)

On Monday, I went with a fellow fiber junky to Mesa, Colorado, to help “skirt” and weigh fleeces, then on Friday, I went to a local alpaca farm, which also happens to be a fiber mill. What a great week!

Monday’s trip up the Grand Mesa was with a guild friend, Mary K., who is a spinner extraordinaire, having actually won a prize for the most yarn spun using a drop spindle at the Taos (NM) Wool Festival, the first part of October. Mary helps her friend, Gaylene, process wool after shearing. Why are they shearing in October, you ask? Because the quality of the wool is better after the summer on grass, than after the winter on hay. For a couple of days after the shearing, the sheep are a little cold, but then something happens to the wool (it closes?) and they are fine for winter.

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The Fleece Goddesses in action

The fleeces were rolled up in units by sheep. There were about a gazillion (probably 20-25) that needed to be skirted. Sometimes they held together while we tossed them around, sometimes not so much. Skirting a fleece means picking out the second cuts, small tufts of wool that aren’t useful for spinning, plus any fecal matter or vegetation that gets caught in the fleece. There’s a cut side (where the clippers sheared) and the tip side. You start on one side, then roll the fleece to the other side and do it again. Your hands get dirty and repugnant with lanolin, but they will be soft after a bit of skirting.

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Gaylene with fleece before and beautiful hills in the distance.

Sheep sweat, believe it or not. And the sweat mixes with the lanolin and makes glops of goo that hang around in the wool.

I learned to see the crimp in the wool, which was just lovely. The sheep at Gaylene’s place are CVM (California Variegated Mutant). Mary and Gaylene had skirted most of the white fleeces on Sunday, so we mostly had grays, browns and mixes of those in varying shades of exquisite beauty. They tried to teach me more, like the various qualities of wool from parts of the body, but I couldn’t keep up.

Gaylene and Mary are a force, however; I named them the Fleece Goddesses. They are so knowledgeable about sheep, fleeces, different qualities of fleece on one animal, etc. Mary also saved a lamb from the slaughter while we were there. She named her Lucy. (Seriously, Gaylene doesn’t name an animal she plans to slaughter.)

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Lucy. Notice her skinny little legs.

As the day went on, Mary and Gaylene started putting the pressure on for me to get a fleece. I tell you, friends, I resisted up until the very end, when I gave up and took a small fleece (3.55#). It’s so beautiful, it’s almost like a pet, but you don’t have to feed it or clean up after it! I’m not going to learn to spin on it, though, it’s too beautiful for hodge podge spinning. I have plenty more to learn on.

Me with my new pet:

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My first fleece!

I was pretty tired after that. Mary and Gaylene suggested I get a tetanus booster, since I couldn’t remember when I had my last one. (I got one and was sore for a week! SMART TIP: Get it in your booty, because more/bigger muscle mass.)

Then Friday, I went to Suncrest Alpaca Farm, which is in Palisade, but on Orchard Mesa, where all the yummy peaches are grown. I was a few minutes late, but the group didn’t seem to hold it against me. The proprietor, Mike McDermott, was raised on the property and originally got alpacas as a 4H project for his children. His wife is allergic to horses and cows, so they had to think outside the box.

Mike was very entertaining and engaging, telling us about alpacas being a hybrid of llama and paca vicuña, how you have to keep the males and females separate, because the females ovulate upon…well, let’s just say, they don’t have a “season.” He had some beautiful alpacas, including a couple of yearlings:

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“The Girls”

In the upper right hand corner, kind of behind the gate, you can just glimpse the peach orchard Mike also manages. The promontory in the background is Mount Garfield.

Here is a beautiful girl:

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An adult female and a yearling:

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The baby is a beautiful fawn color

This little gal needs braces:

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Don’t you just love the little fluffy hats on top of their heads? And don’t their noses remind you of Falcor the Luckdragon in The NeverEnding Story?

Mike is very scientific about raising alpacas (as Gaylene is about her sheep). They pay attention to the wool that they get from their breeding programs. I learned that Mike is trying to increase the crimp in the alpaca’s wool, Gaylene had one ram who fathered sheep with straight wool, and the softness of any type of wool fiber is measured in microns of diameter: the lower the microns, the softer and finer the fiber. Allergic to wool? You probably won’t be allergic to alpaca because it alpacas don’t make lanolin (although one fiber-y friend IS allergic to alpaca!).

I asked Mike a bunch of questions, like, “Do you take care of their teeth, or do you have it done?” (He and his wife take care of the teeth; it’s a two-person job.) Alpaca teeth are like rabbit teeth: they grow continuously and have to be trimmed.

Mike and his wife also have a fiber mill, where they can process any kind of fiber. He had lots of great stories to tell. His latest machine toy is a knitting machine from China that makes hats. It looked a lot like something from Rube Goldberg, but he knitted a hat in just a few minutes. He said it took him a year to figure out the machine because everything was in Chinese and there was no user manual! That’s dedication.

(For more information on Rube Goldberg, visit www.rubegoldberg.com. I would have loved to include an image, but their licensing is out of my price range….)

So I hope this will inspire you to get out there and explore the fiber world a little more. You may be surprised at how close you are to a sheep or alpaca ranch. If you get a chance to hang out with sheep or alpacas, do it! It will make your week!

“WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL”….USE BAD LANGUAGE

The iconic poem of old women wearing red and purple together can also relate to other sensibilities, behaviors and values. Wearing red and purple together is small potatoes compared to some of the changes we make over our lifetimes. (In fact, the Jenny Joseph poem lists quite a few: here.)

As we age, we find that some things we were taught, or assumed, or had crammed down our throats, simply no longer speak to our experience. The wearing of gloves to church, from my childhood, really doesn’t apply to the Me of today. One of those change-y things is swearing. You know, cussin’.

I was raised as a good Christian girl: church three times a week, choir practice, nursery duty, Sunday School, Bible School, church camp. It was my parents’ idea, trust me. But I bought into it, especially the music parts.

[I raised my children that way, as well, much to their continued chagrin. I MADE them go to CAAAAMP! We said prayers every night! Oh, the torture! Oh, the pain! It was worse than eating vegetables!]

Then, my marriage, which had always been difficult, went very, very south. It was the kind of religious experience that could be described by metaphors like “being in the desert,” “walking in darkness,” “the valley of the shadow,” or “like hell.”

What I realized, finally, was that my Good Christian life was like hell, hell on earth. I came to see life as a cosmic continuum, and that hell could actually be a place to be, metaphorically speaking, right here, right now. Not blaming anyone, just telling how it felt.

After I separated from Husband #1, I met The Leprechaun. My Leprechaun is a short guy, short of stature and temper, and he cusses more and better than anyone else I know personally. I swear to you, everything is “damned,” and/or a “son of a bitch.” But he is also kind, supportive and likes hanging out with me.

When I was a kid, cussing was an excuse for the parents to wash your mouth out with soap. I don’t really remember that occurring too often, but my brother, Freddie, got the soap sandwich at least once. As an adult, I had sort of loosened up on the language restrictions, though, led probably by my children and working in a school for kids with behavior issues. We had some very creative cussers in that school. The kids cussed some, too.

It’s kind of interesting how language unites and divides us. When I was a kid, uses of language could make a person sound crude, uneducated, brutish, refined, snooty, and so on, and we judged and were judged according to how we spoke, perhaps more than appearance. (This was a LLLLLONGGG time ago, okay?) We still make judgments and assumptions, based on accent. Southern drawl? Redneck, or maybe charmer, depending on your experience. Foreign accent? Uncomfortably for this PC girl, often a source of amusement.

Anyway, these days, it seems like language that used to make me blush is so commonly used (pun!) that I hardly notice.

There’s a song, by Samuel Barber, The Secrets of the Old, based on poetry by W. B. Yeats, with this:

…Madge tells me what I dared not think
When my blood was strong,
And what had drowned a lover once
Sounds like an old song….

There’s a lot of profane language that still repels me. I don’t like using such words, but I may use them if the occasion calls for it. However, I believe it is cleverer to find other ways of expressing one’s feelings, if possible. But, it is work. Satire, anyone? Sarcasm? Irony?

Many cultures tell us of the light and dark sides we all possess. Somehow, I thought that, if we were “good,” we could be all light inside, and maybe we can, but not without a lot of inner house cleaning. In the meantime, does it really do any good to believe that, if we occasionally give into “the dark side,” that God (or The Universe, or the FSM) won’t understand and love us anyway? If we accept our own “confoibles” (*more on this word at another time*), it makes it easier to accept the confoibles of others and makes for a more peaceful coexistence.

If you hear me swear occasionally, relax! Nobody’s perfect!

Luv ya, anyway!

Pam

Peach Blessings

PEACH BLESSINGS

It’s been a week now since I first encountered peach blessings.

We received notice from our church office that a vineyard on nearby Orchard Mesa was offering free peaches to anyone who wanted to go out and pick them. Well, when you get to be a certain age (read, “income level”), “free” becomes your favorite word, even though you realize through much “hard knocks” schooling that nothing is truly free. So the Leprechaun and I set out with boxes and bags galore to get some of these “free” peaches. We thought, we’ll pick some for our neighbors as well.

Background story: we’ve felt especially close to our neighbors because of the recent death of one of them, a gentleman with whom we had been enjoying a growing acquaintanceship. We were all in shock, but watching his wife and daughters endure their pain was heart-bruising. So we thought to share our pickings with these neighbors who had circled the wagons around this particular family.

It was a sunny, clear day when we drove to Orchard Mesa searching for the vineyard. We hadn’t even seen the surrounding landscape, i.e., the Grand Mesa, Colorado National Monument and the Bookcliffs, for a couple of months due to smoke from forest fires plaguing Colorado, Utah, and even California, but last Saturday was beautiful. We picked for a couple of hours and harvested at least 100 pounds of tree-ripened Redglobes. When you see all that beautiful fruit hanging there, it’s like your lizard brain takes over and you just keep picking until you realize that you have to carry all of that fruit at some point. When that realization dawns, it occurs to you that you don’t have a freezer, aren’t inclined to can or otherwise preserve ANYTHING, and you just hope that your neighbors don’t mind the bruises because the fruit is at the peak of ripeness.

We visited with the couple who donated the fruit. Their property is planted in vineyards, but they don’t make wine; rather, they sell their grapes to local wineries. They lease a small tract to a man who grows peaches, but the weather was unfavorable in the spring, so the peaches were small-ish and, therefore, unmarketable. He didn’t harvest them! (To be fair, I heard there may have been a problem getting harvesters because Colorado hemp growers pay more, so even the best peaches in the region were going unharvested.) The couple who own the land called around to six or seven churches and offered the fruit for free to members who wanted to pick.

We found out that one reason the couple was interested in sharing the fruit is that bears like to come on their property and eat peaches. Poor bears, they are really scrapping for food with the severe drought we’re having. I suppose the peaches are a blessing for the bears, even if the humans would prefer the bears not help with the harvest.

When we arrived home from our adventure, we shared peaches with our neighbors. We got a nice visit with the newly widowed neighbor and talked about a lot more than peaches.

I made a “crisp” – you know, with the crumbly oatmeal on top – to take to church the next day. We also took a bag of fruit to share. People told me how to can peaches, and I nodded my head. One friend said she never eats peaches because she was raised on a peach farm and had gotten her fill as a kid. In the coming days, I came to appreciate her point of view. That afternoon, I cut up peaches for a topping for the youth group’s ice cream social.

The next day I made what could kindly be called a galette, a “rustic” tart with a rich, rich (did I say rich?) pie crust, made with butter AND cream cheese, and shared with the choir I sing in for dessert night. The pieces that were left made it home, but didn’t survive for long after that.

Then we took peaches to yoga on Tuesday and I made sure every person in class knew they could get more by calling me.

I emailed everybody I could think of, but most people had already gotten their annual allotment of Palisade Peaches (that’s a thing! Google it!). A couple of friends came over for peaches. One friend said she freezes them whole! I had never heard the like. Another friend brought me a jar of her own mixture of southwest spices.

So, it occurred to me through all of this cutting, baking and sharing that we were experiencing a great blessing. Why? Because we had the strength to pick beautiful tree-ripened peaches and enjoyed being out in the fresh day. Because we tasted a few while we picked. Because we got to share them in so many places. They are peach blessings because we will enjoy them in the fall and winter and think about that day in the orchard when we could hardly carry them to the car. We got to see friends who took us up on our offer to get peaches from our house, and will remember the visits we had. We got a little more acquainted with our neighbors under happier circumstances. We made new acquaintances which might develop into friendships!

One last new acquaintance brought her daughters over to pick up a box of our slightly bruised peach blessings on Friday and today I shared another galette at church. I have one more bag to do something with and I may make another tart, this time for the Leprechaun.

So, in the spirit of continuing the dispersal of peach blessings, my hope for you is that, in spite of the hassles, difficulties, bad moods, traffic, and a$$-holery you encounter, you may see the everyday blessings that come your way, and that they will bring you much joy.

With gratitude,

Pam

The Care and Feeding of a Leprechaun

I am married to a Leprechaun. What is a Leprechaun, you may ask? According to that great source of knowledge, Wikipedia, a leprechaun is “a type of fairy of the Aos Sí in Irish folklore.” Well, the Leprechaun I married is no fairy, so to speak, but he is short and loves to make mischief, as the article goes on to say. Read the article here.

I originally started to call my husband a Leprechaun because he is undertall, and is definitely some sort of Gaelic/Celtic/Anglo/Scotch-Irish heritage. So, the epithet stuck. Like, for 19 years. (Must be true, right?)

In my past life, I was involved in the production of Readers Theatre for Westport Center for the Arts in KCMO. One of our endeavors was the telling of Darby O’Gill stories from Herminie Templeton Kavanaugh. If you have not read them, they were the basis for the Disney movie of 1959, but way more fun. We hired “real actors” to read the tales, and they could do a rather authentic sounding brogue, which was tons of fun.

But, I digress. The Leprechaun about whom I am writing is my dear husband, and his care and feeding is along the lines of this (a la The Ten Commandments):

I.  Thou shalt always serve meat, because thy Leprechaun is a carnivore (I am not). If the Leprechaun doesn’t get meat at least seven days a week, he has a meltdown, and makes piteous cries, and stringent demands. He sometimes will go for a vegetarian meal, but don’t push it. He also needs to have “healthy snacks” so he isn’t “forced” to eat junk food. Per himself.

II.  Thou shalt respect thy Leprechaun, even be gentle. Leprechauns, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, are very tender-hearted and sensitive.

III.  Thou shalt allow some “mansplaining.” Not too much, but he does love a good, one-sided conversation. Rabbit trails are a particular specialty. Also, do not make thy eye-drooping too obvious.

IV.  Thou shalt not watch “progressive” TV programs in thy Leprechaun’s presence. This is a sure way to upset his tender sensibilities. (See Number II.)

V.  Thou shalt avoid political discussions. They never end well. (See Number II.)

VI.  Thou shalt reassure the Leprechaun of thy tender feelings daily.

VII.  Thou shalt forgive thy Leprechaun liberally.

VIII.  Thou shalt use tact when speaking with thy Leprechaun. Otherwise, shitstorm. (See Number II. Again)

IX.  Thou shalt provide liberal backrubs to thy Leprechaun. This is actually nice, because it keeps him calm, and may lead to more fun. (Wink, wink! Nudge, nudge!)

X.  Thou shalt be patient with thy Leprechaun. God isn’t finished with him yet. And neither am I.

There is more, and there will be more, but the final word is, my Leprechaun is a wonderful human being. He is witty, funny, fun to be with, and he loves me, never an easy thing to do. He is industrious, and inspiring in his grit. So, if you have a Leprechaun, I hope you enjoy yours as much as I enjoy mine.

Blessings!

Pam

 

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Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

Whodathunk?

So, is probably not a good way to start a blog, but here we all are. I am a knitter, tatter, and am learning to spin. I love doing these things, and could natter on and on about it, and often do. I belong to the Mesa Fiber Arts Guild in Grand Junction, CO, which is a collection, gathering or spin of fiber artists, amazing group. If you like to do fiber arts, I recommend joining a group, because it will enrich your life. You will learn, teach and enjoy the company of others who have your special kind of craziness.

One thing about the fiber arts, they are all very mathematical, but they are also creative, so you have the best of both halves of your brain. And you don’t have to be perfect to create perfectly wonderful things. When I took a spinning class in April, I learned that whatever you spin can actually be called yarn!

Fiber arts are very comforting, too, because there’s something about handling fibers that makes your skin happy. If you’ve ever felt alpaca, you know what I mean. Plus, there’s buffalo, yak, paco vicuna, cashmere, angora, DOG yarn, for crying out loud! Silk, also.

One fun thing about living in Colorado is the fact that there are so many opportunities to learn about the growing, harvesting and processing of fibers. I will share my adventures here, as I learn more about this subject. Of course, everyone in Colorado is trying to cash in on the hemp craze, so I spoke with a fellow fiber artist this morning about trying to turn hemp into fiber and cloth locally, to try to replace coal jobs that are being lost. Hemp is a great eco-friendly crop and is useful in ways besides healing the sick (ahem!) or getting a Rocky Mountain High.

I want to give another shout out to my Guild friends. We encompass all fiber arts, except quilting and embroidery, which have their own guilds, so namely knit/crochet, spinning, weaving, dyeing, and rug hooking/punching. Our members also do lots of other crafts, such as kumihimo (look it up!), saori weaving, tatting (that’s me), and Russian needle punch. Some of our members are so accomplished, it’s dazzling to hang out with them. Some of our older members have participated in “sheep to shawl” projects, wherein they take a newly shorn fleece, spin it and knit a shawl, all in one day! I’m sorry, that just impresses the heck out of me!

This is not going to be as sofistikated as some blogs, because I am nowhere near the artist that some people are, but who knows what lies ahead!

With joy and fiber love,

Pam

Disclaimer: This unique opportunity to share my fiber joy comes from my middle daughter, who gave me this blog for Mother’s Day. What she doesn’t realize is that I’ve been wanting to do a blog about my husband, also, titled, “The Care and Feeding of a Leprechaun.” Y’all may get some Leprechaun news here, as well. (That “y’all” is a Missouri drawl, not quite as southern as you might think.) Blessings!

Bring me yarn or chocolate…or both. How about both?

Welcome!

Life is too short to have just one set of knitting needles.

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Just a little something I whipped up in my spare time. Not really. This took forever.

Why is this here? Because I love knitting and I’m hard to shop for so my daughter made me a blog to keep my projects on. If you’re here, you probably love to knit as much as I do. My daughter knows I don’t have a ton of spare time to upkeep a blog, but thought this might be a fun way to share my passion for all things yarny with the world.